© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

Wildlife Encounters in Te Anau

© NZPocketGuide.com

144 Days on the Road

Working back from yesterday, we have done a Doubtful Sound trip, Te Anau Glowworms Caves, bungy jumping and Luge, go-karting and lazer tag, ziptrekking, canyoning, white water rafting, jet boating, 4×4 driving, and hiking a New Zealand Great Walk… Although we feel super grateful that we’ve managed to do all these amazing activities, it’s fair to say that we are a little beat. For anyone travelling in New Zealand, it can get pretty intense after 10 straight days. So today, we are slowing down. Don’t get us wrong, we are still going to do an activity or else this would be a pretty crappy 365 days doing 365 activities! But we consider this activity a bit more on the relaxing side.

Our setting: the small town of Te Anau situated on a beautiful lake that stretches out to views of the Fiordland National Park. There’s no better place to relax in our book. We decide to make the most of the lake by doing a short walk on the track around it to the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary. It’s a relaxing activity AND it’s free: perfect!

Walking around Lake Te Anau

Someone forgot to tell Fiordland that it’s one of the rainiest places on the planet, because we are having another beautiful sunny day in Te Anau. That’s two days in a row! Is summer starting to make an appearance? We are shedding layers, rolling up pants, and throwing on the sunglasses as we stroll around the wide and easy lakeside walkway.

We know we are heading towards a bird sanctuary, but there are quite a few native birds making a raucous in the trees before we have even get there. The infamous tui makes it weird R2-D2 robot sounds, composing the soundtrack to our Te Anau walk.

A Lake Te Anau jetty

Like most lakes in New Zealand, there are a couple of “boaties” (Kiwi for people with boats) knocking around. Sailing boats, sea planes and motorboats are docked in their few on the lake. We take advantage of the Yacht Club’s jetty to sit at the end of, gaze at the New Zealand scenery, and chat. Sometimes it’s good to just sit back and talk.

Underneath us, an eel inspects all the poles holding up the jetty. It’s nothing compared to the squirming swarm of eels that we saw back at Lake Rotoiti in the Nelson Lakes.

Te Anau Bird Sanctuary

Our journey takes us a little further along the lake until we hear the unusual warbles mixed with more common parrot screeches. We think we’ve found the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary.

Three kaka use every branch and surrounding metal fence to climb using both beak and claws. The reason they are here in this aviary is because they are part of a captive rearing programme. They are used for breeding to release more kaka into the wild to increase the population of this vulnerable parrot species.

Whether the birds are here for breeding programmes or here because they are injured, they are definitely not scared of humans. The kaka act as if we are not here as they waddle across branches toward our faces. Like all native New Zealand bird species, they have evolved in a land of no land mammal predators so don’t have that innate fear of humans.

From kakariki to takahe

In the next aviary are a group of parakeet/kakariki. We arrive just in time to see a Department of Conservation worker as she is working off-duty giving the parakeet a new branch to peck berries from. The small green parrots don’t hesitate to jump on her as she enters the aviary.

A huge open-topped enclosure is home to a breeding pair of takahe, a fat blue flightless bird with a red face and beak. They follow each other around the enclosure, pecking off the floor and each other as if they are madly in love… N’awww!


We have been lucky enough to see a few of these birds in the wild and in other bird sanctuaries around New Zealand. However, we are about to see a New Zealand bird which is a first sighting for us. It is incredibly exciting when we see the native New Zealand owl, the morepork!

Of course, it’s daytime, so the morepork is fast asleep in a corner of the enclosure. But we sure feel lucky to be able to see this miniature owl.

Robin the duckling whisperer

Other parts of Te Anau Bird Sanctuary are open for birds to fly in and out as they please. The introduced duck species, such as mallard duck and Canadian geese, don’t object to eating grass straight from our hand. And Robin becomes the duckling whisperer as a group of tiny ducklings get very interested in the rustling of a plastic bag. They are literally jumping on his shoes to get to him!

Somehow New Zealand does turn you into a stereotypical retiree with a fascination for birds. Our interest for birds was really non-existent until we came to New Zealand and had seen just how different birds could be after evolving so isolated from the rest of the world!

Fiordland on Film

On the theme of a “relaxing day“, too many locals have recommended we go to the Fiordland Cinema in Te Anau and watch a 30-minute cinematic called Ata Whenua: Shadowland. The movie was put together by a helicopter team flying over the World Heritage Area over two years, allowing us to see Fiordland throughout the seasons from a perspective we’ll probably never be able to see (or afford from a helicopter). $10 to watch Fiordland on Film is much more in our price range.

For $10, it is a damn-fancy cinema with super wide seats. As expected, the movie does show some fantastical footage of Fiordland. It’s earth porn at its finest with no dialogue so anyone can enjoy!


You didn’t really think we would be relaxing for long did you? Nope, tomorrow it’s back to the adventurous New Zealand as we are doing possibly our most challenging activity yet: pack rafting. That’s hiking and carrying rafts through Fiordland. Make sure to join us then!

Scouting for takahe along the beautiful Lake Te Anau

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